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Shabazz Palaces live in Amsterdam

A few weeks back we had the chance to see Shabazz Palaces play live in Amsterdam. We were excited; since getting a copy of their most recent album Black Up, the sounds of Shabazz Palaces has been a go-to album over the past months. What made this concert even more exciting was the opportunity to see them play in a such small and gezellig venue which, as far as concert venues are concerned, can only really hold a handful of people. Pre-concert, the anticipation built; it was clear from the minimalistic stage set-up that we were going to cut straight to the main event (no support act here!).

Then, all of a sudden, the waiting was over, as this dynamic duo caught the waiting audience off-guard, making an entrance from the back of the club, playing instruments, sashaying their way through the small but dedicated crowd and up onto the stage. The photo below doesn’t really capture their entrance all that well, but from this moment, everyone there seemed delighted, and once the music kicked in for real, this was a concert that went from strength to strength.

Shabazz Palaces manage to conjure a sense of mystery through the layered nature of their unique hip-hop, and this translated incredibly well to a live show. We were treated to a long set of tracks including some from their earlier self titled and Of Light EPs, in addition to elongated renditions of all the tracks on Black Up.

Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire seeme to work seamlessly as a duo, with their self-assured approach to their music coming through strongly. The range of instruments the pair use gives their music an exciting edge, and Maraire seemed to be a master of every instrument (many traditional ones from Africa and Asia) he laid his hands on during their show, each with their own very particular sound which sticks in the mind.

Shake, shake, shake: Tendai Maraire on percussion (left)

Bringing the beats, the moves and the vocals: Shabazz Palaces live in Amsterdam

Bringing panache to percussion: Tendai Maraire of Shabazz Palaces in action (left, playing mbira)

Shabazz Palaces’ hip-hop is super atmospheric, and in this small, darkened room with dramatic lighting, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Stand out tracks were An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum (I’d been longing to hear the change up at 1.21 on this track live, and I was not disappointed!); Are you… Can you… Were you? (Felt); A treatease dedicated to The Avian Airess from North East Nubis (1000 questions, 1 answer); and Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding). The crowd was moving, dancing to the beats, exemplified by the guy up the front who we had to admire for his commitment, dancing ultra-enthusiastically the whole way through…

The icing on the cake of Shabazz Palaces’ brilliant set though, was undoubtedly their synchronised dance moves. Yes, synchronised dance moves. Too cool. Not on every track, but on just the right ones, coordinated dance moves – arm movements, turns, spins, head nods – punctuated the lyrics. These made the crowd cheer even louder on Youlogy, and my favourite track, Recollections of the Wraith.

These dance moves were too fast for me to capture on camera, and let’s face it, I was dancing along myself. This was a thoroughly enjoyable night out, listening to a band whose music I may not always understand (can you make sense of those song titles?!), but which makes hip-hop that is extremely listenable, and who although appearing at first serious and Hollywood (the sunglasses and a raincoat with the hood up inside which were eventually removed could not have been comfortable, could they?!) were refreshingly fun to watch and listen to live. I’d pay to see Shabazz Palaces play live again, but I very much doubt we’ll have the chance to see them play in such an intimate venue again, so I am glad we grabbed our chance this time around.


Photos by CIA, Bitterzoet, Amsterdam, 05 August 2012.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Percussion envy…

    September 12, 2012

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